In the AFC there will be little or no surprise in the playoff picture.  Everyone expects New England, Baltimore, Indianapolis and San Diego to cruise to their respective division titles, and they will.  Houdini Mangini and his New York Jets should put the handcuffs on the first wildcard spot.  The second wildcard will come down to a tiebreaker scrum, players including Denver, Jacksonville and Cincinnati.  I look for Denver to back into that last slot.

The NFC will offer us the storylines.  The division winners won’t be the slam dunks like they are in the AFC.  Philadelphia will hold off Dallas in the East, and St. Louis will surprise us all by edging out the competition in the West.  New Orleans should bring home the South title for the second year in a row.  Chicago will win the North with their defense.  This year’s sexy pick, the 49ers, won’t make the playoffs – sorry to all you romantic types.  But their division will put two teams in the playoff picture, as Seattle will hold on for the first wildcard.  The second wildcard will be a shootout, Tampa Bay edging out Carolina (by virtue of their division record) and Dallas (by virtue of conference record).